Folk Music Legend, Woodstock Opener Richie Havens Dies
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Folk music legend and Brooklyn native Richie Havens died Monday at the age of 72.
Mr. Havens’ death was announced Monday afternoon. He died of a sudden heart attack in his Jersey City home, according to booking agent Tim Drake.
Born in Brooklyn in 1941, Mr. Havens performed with the McCrea Gospel Singers in his native borough as a teenager before taking on the folk scene in Greenwich Village during his 20s.
“I saw the Village as a place to escape to in order to express yourself,” Mr. Havens said in a 2008 biography on his own Web site. “I had first gone there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then I drew portraits for two years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before I thought of picking up a guitar.”
Mr. Havens landed a record deal in 1967, and released five albums before his legendary appearance as the opening performer at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969. He performed a lengthy set, and but was best remembered for the improvised song, “Freedom,” an improvisation of the spiritual, “Motherless Child.”
His cover of the George Harrison-penned Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” was also among his best-known hits, making No. 16 on the U.S. pop charts in 1971.
Mr. Havens went on to found his own record label, Stormy Forest, and branched into acting in the 1970s — appearing in the 1972 stage interpretation of “The Who’s Tommy,” as Othello in the 1974 movie “Catch My Soul,” and alongside Richard Pryor in the 1977 film “Greased Lightning.”
Mr. Havens was also a producer of the 25th anniversary Woodstock ’94 festival.
In all, he put out 21 studio albums and went on several world tours. He also won the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for his charity work in 1991, according to published reports.
Mr. Havens retired from performing three years ago, Drake said.
A public memorial will be planned for a future date.
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